Brad Stevens Head Coach Butler
Photo: Brad J. Ward

Making a prediction between UConn vs. Butler is not an easy task. When we posed the question to our friends on Facebook, the votes so far have favored the Huskies, even though Butler is the team that was in the title game just last year.

You have to consider one thing, if Gordan Hayward had not gone pro, this Butler team would be hands down a favorite and probably would have entered the tournament as a number one seed.

Breaking down the NCAA tournament comes down to a few basic rules when trying to predict the overall tournament. These two teams have a lot more balancing them out than people may realize, and the favorite falling to UConn is probably due to the fact that they hail from a power conference. But let’s take a closer look:

1. UConn has a head coach who has years of experience and won multiple national championships. However, Brad Stevens just went to the title game last season. Edge to Calhoun, but Stevens is now officially in the ranks of coaches who can be counted on for wins in the tournament.

2. UConn has a lot of youth, which is almost always a surefire way not to win a title (just ask the Fab Five). The difference has been Kemba Walker, who is such a tremendous go-to player and leader this season that the freshman haven’t looked much like newcomers. However, Butler has loads of experience from last season, and the edge and poise have to go to them.

3. Conference play. UConn plays in the Big East, one of the conferences where conventional wisdom holds that a team from one of the top conferences has to be able to compete at a high level for longer. While that would usually hold true, Butler’s track record from the past two seasons actually shows that they are no longer a giant killer, but a legitimate top team, and the recruits they will no doubt be landing after the last two seasons will make them a formidable team. No advantage.

4. Size. Butler has bigs, but they don’t have the waves of size that UConn will bring. However, UConn’s bigs have yet to prove they can consistently handle the ball and rebound, and Matt Howard is a hard guard for anyone. Slight edge to UConn, but don’t be surprised to see Matt Howard change the game.

5. Foul trouble. UConn can withstand foul trouble a lot more than Butler, as long as it’s not Kemba Walker who is piling up the fouls. Advantage UConn.

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By James Blackburn

San Diego State

West Regional Semifinals- 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 matchup
Connecticut wins 74-67

Box Score

Game Recap/Thoughts

1st Half

• UConn is getting only one shot every trip early in the 1st. half – State is doing a great job on the boards.
• Leonard picked up his 2nd foul with a un-sportsmanlike technical 4 minutes into the game – had to be taken out – we will see how this effects State the rest of the half.
• UConn is shooting contested shots – poor shot selection.
• San Diego St. is getting whatever it wants on the offensive end. Going inside out.
• SDSU is getting in foul trouble early – they have 2 guys with 2 fouls each with over half of the 1st half remaining.
• UConn is going one-on-one too much – not a lot of movement. State on the other hand is running a lot of good sets.
• Leonard is back in with 9 minutes left.
• UConn is using a lot of clock on the offensive end – having to take bad shots to beat the shot clock
• SDSU loves to run the floor – they are doing a good job in the half-court too. SDSU is also doing a great job of entering the ball to the post.
• SDSU’s big’s do a great job of passing out of the post.
• UConn closed the half on a 19-5 run because of State’s turnovers and the fact that UConn is starting to run their sets and shooting better shots.

2nd Half

• SDSU goes to Leonard for the 1st play.
• UConn is setting ball screens for Walker and letting him create.
• UConn should start denying the post entry pass or double the post – SDSU is able to get the ball to their big’s way too easily and once they get the ball, they have space to operate.
• SDSU just took the lead with 13 minutes to go in the game – going inside out and UConn is settling for poor shots and doing too much one-on-one and not running the play.
• UConn’s freshmen are taking some quick shots early in the offense.
• UConn takes a timeout after some recent sloppy play, resulting in SDSU 4 point lead.
• SDSU is losing the mental battle this game – Franklin picked a un-sportsmanlike technical with 9 minutes left for a shoulder bump after a time out.
• The game is starting to get chippy and the refs are calling it tight.
• Game is full of runs by both teams – UConn is on a 9-0 run right now, mostly by Walker, with Leonard on bench with 4 fouls.
• UConn has no answer for SDSU’s post players.
• Big 4 point play for SDSU’s Gay with 3:45 remaining. Big momentum swing.
• Lamb with a big steal to secure the win for UConn.
• UConn is just the 2nd team to beat San Diego State all season, the other one being BYU.

Scouting Reports

Connecticut

Kemba Walker (G, 6’1”, JR)

Strengths: shifty- can get to the lane/rim at will- changes speeds well. Moves well with out the ball. Great shooter – has NBA 3 point range. Can shoot off the catch, off the screen, and can create his own shot – very good form. Gets good elevation on jumper. Plays hard and plays a lot of minutes – well conditioned – never came out of the game. Dived on the floor for a steal. Good anticipation on defensive end. Explosive scorer – can score in bunches when he gets going. Good body control in air. Array of offensive moves in his arsenal – loves to pump fake and step in to mid range jumper. At his best when isolated at the top of the key and is given freedom and space to create. Gets to the FT line at a high rate.

Weaknesses: over dribbles, good FT shooter- but tends to drop his hands after follow through – causes him to miss, he needs to hold his follow through. Goes to his right most of the time – needs to improve left – even though he did show the ability to use his left this game.

Overview: Better at the off guard than at PG – more of a scorer than a play-maker. Tweener – some NBA scouts/GM’s will question how much Walker can contribute at the NBA level because of size. The guy can play – he is a competitor and a winner – had a terrific game tonight – showed off his full arsenal and ability to score the ball in a variety of ways. He wants the ball in clutch situations and when the game is on the line. He comes from a good program and a good conference. The Big East is known for producing good NBA players. He would be a solid top 15 pick in my opinion.

Roscoe Smith (F, 6’8”, FR)

Strengths: Ability to shoot the 3. Long and athletic – gets off the ground quickly. Still raw in the post – but showed a nice drop step. Good rebounder. Had a nice back door cut in 2nd half – and had a nice reverse acrobatic finish.

Weaknesses: needs to get stronger in the upper body – opponents post players get deep position on him – results in foul trouble.

Overview: Highly touted freshman – was a Jordan All-American. A player to keep an eye on – still raw in many areas, but I see a lot of potential in him. The NBA is in his future.

San Diego State

Kawhi Leonard (F, 6’7”, SO)

Strengths: Good rebounder. Can face the basket, put ball on floor and attack the basket, can advance the ball up the court with the dribble after securing the rebound. Active and physical player, strong – constantly moving – full of energy. Good enough ball handler to bring ball up the court and initiate the offense. Underrated passer. Attacks the basket hard – explosive going to his right. High release on shot.

Weaknesses: Prefers to go to his right – needs to improve left hand. Needs to improve shooting – extend range (shooting less than 30% from 3 this year). Slow release on set shot. Needs to improve shooting overall.

Overview: Got a technical foul 4 minutes into the 1st half because he was talking to the opposing players – it was his 2nd foul – had to come out (1st technical of his career). Body is NBA ready – solid effort tonight – scored, rebounded, and assisted. Should be a solid role player in the NBA.

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By Marcus Shockley

This gym is not full of cheering fans, with an announcer chiming in over the loudspeaker with a play by play.

As the mass of bodies push each other, literally across the gym floor, Chris Paul’s purple workout shirt stands out among the wrestling players. The drill is to grab your opponent by the shoulders and try to push him across the gym. The problem of course, is that he’s trying to stop you.

It’s an exercise is power, will and endurance. It’s exhausting.

And it’s only the beginning.

The players crowd the floor from one side to the other, strong players who are used to the power needed to play college basketball and elite high school basketball. This drill of exertion is one of the first of the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp, a camp put together by NBA star point guard Paul and Position Sports to focus on one clear objective: build better point guards.

The drills are completely focused on being a point guard, with wave after wave of intensive ball handling drills. The coaches have split the gym into three floors, with high school players taking up two courts and college players taking up the other. The coaches shout the drills – two ball dribble around the cones, then two ball dribble with one ball in a behind the back move around the cones, and so on. The drills are rapid fire, changing every couple of minutes. The players grunt and push themselves, trying to master each intensive set of instructions.

Chris throws himself into the camp, which takes place in his hometown of Winston-Salem, and engages in the drills along with the players. As he works on one handed catch-and-pass drills with incoming UNC freshman Harrison Barnes, you would not know that Chris Paul is the big star that all of the players admire. Tonight, he’s more than a mentor, more than a star player to emulate.

Tonight, he’s a teammate.

The camp is filled with some of the top talent in both the college ranks and high school, with Duke stars Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and incoming transfer Seth Curry all working their way through the drills. Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes are forwards taking on a point guard skills camp, an attempt to constantly improve and push themselves. Singler works doggedly through the drills, exerting an effort that would set an example to the high school players just across the gym – if they weren’t so focused on surviving the drills themselves.

Scoop Jardine is in attendance along with fellow Syracuse guard Brandon Triche. Following the first workout, Jardine would tell his Twitter followers that the camp was ‘hard as hell’.

It’s not an understatement.

Kemba Walker of UConn, incoming freshman point guard Kendall Marshall of UNC, and Wake Forest rising sophomores Ari Stewart and CJ Harris are also going through the camp, along with Chris Wright of Georgetown, Durand Scott of Miami and several more.

For the high schoolers, the drills are intended to show them how to master their ball handling skills and how an elite guard positions and defends, which is key for power players like Dezmine Wells, a 6’4″ small forward from the class of 2011. Dezmine is taking on smaller, sometimes quicker players, but he works like mad, pouring himself into every drill. He uses his size to defend, as guard Marquis Rankin gets an inside step and flashes under him, he quickly adjusts in midair and cleanly blocks the ball at the last second.

Later, as Dezmine pulls off a great jab step and blasts past his defender, he turns his head to rafters and screams angrily in obvious frustration as his shot clangs off the rim. The coaches rush in and tell him emphatically, “There was nothing wrong with that play! You did everything right!” It’s a good teaching moment. The coaches have been harping on the players for not following instructions all night, but Dezmine is obviously paying attention. He might not be getting the result he wants, but he is listening. And that makes coaches happy.

There are so many talented guards in the camp, such as rising phenom Rodney Purvis (PG, 6’3″, 2013), Jabari Brown (G, 6’3″, 2011) and Jamal Branch (PG, 6’3″, 2011). Bishop Daniels (PG, 6’2″, 2011) does extremely well in the ball handling drills, and PJ Hairston (SG/SF, 6’5″, 2011), another UNC commit, works his size to make up ground against the guards.

Quinn Cook (PG, 6’1″, 2011), sits out on the sidelines with a tweaked ankle. “I hurt it last night in a summer league game,” he says, but he sits with ice on it, hoping to participate the next day.

At the end of the first night’s workout, the players load up on a bus and head back to the hotel, ready to collapse. Chris Paul is giving them a hard training in being an elite NBA point guard, and these players are ready for the challenge.

The Jump Manual